Buckeye Layer Cake

Depending on what part of the world you are in, you may or may not know what a buckeye is. If you happen to be from Ohio, you’ll definitely know buckeye, as they are basically the state’s official dessert! Peanut butter fudge balls partially dipped in chocolate to resemble the nut of a buckeye tree, buckeyes are basically like a Reese’s Cup, but in bonbon/ball form. While I do not have any actual ties to Ohio(beyond eventually wanting to start a Japanese-themed radio show there called Ohayou, Ohio since ohayou is the Japanese word for good morning and it is pronounced the same way), I did find it fascinating that such a dessert existed. That and I love doing my own interpretations on classic Americana desserts. For this specific recipe, I wanted to pay homage to the closest thing I know from Ohio, which is Christina Tosi. So I went with a layer cake, decorated in Milkbar fashion, and to use up the cake scraps, I made those into the buckeye cake truffles that adorned the cake itself! The idea of cake truffles is fun just because it uses up all of your cake scraps that are not being used in the layer cake, so there is essentially 0 waste when it comes to making this specific cake!

For the layers, we have a brown butter peanut cake, a vanilla soak, dark chocolate mousse, peanut butter-blonde chocolate ganache, and the buckeye cake truffles. The idea behind doing peanut butter in the cake instead of chocolate was because I wanted to use the cake scraps for the cake truffles, so if the cake was chocolate, then it would not be a true buckeye. That and using brown butter and peanut butter in the cake made for a wonderful combination, as the brown butter really accentuates the peanut flavor in the batter. I used blonde chocolate in the ganache(which you can sub with butterscotch chips), since the blonde chocolate’s caramel-y notes also pair beautifully with peanut butter to give the ganache a peanut brittle-like flavor! That and it is a perfect homage to the peanut butter fudge that a buckeye is made from. The chocolate components are obviously there to add the chocolate flavor in a buckeye, with the mousse being used instead of a second ganache because I wanted there to be some lightness to the dessert – everything is inherently heavy, so any sort of light, airy component was more than welcomed to break up the richness.

For the brown butter peanut cake:
1 stick unsalted butter, browned
4oz peanut butter
1 cup milk
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 cups granulated sugar
a pinch of salt

In a bowl, mix together the brown utter peanut butter, milk, vinegar, and vanilla. Sift into that the other ingredients. Fold together to form your batter. Pour into a lined sheet tray and bake at 350 degrees F for 22 minutes. Allow the cake to fully cool before cutting out 2 6-inch rounds and making the third using cake scraps. Reserve any remaining cake scraps(try to aim for about 2-3 oz), as you will use those to make your buckeye cake truffles with!

For the soak:
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
a pinch of salt

Mix together. Keep refrigerated until time to assemble.

For the peanut butter ganache:
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp gelatin powder + 1 tbsp cold water
4oz blonde chocolate
a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a pot, heat up peanut butter, milk, gelatin, blonde chocolate, and salt. Once everything is dissolved together and fully smooth, pour the mixture through a sieve to remove any lumps and allow the peanut butter ganache to cool down. Finish with the vanilla.

For the dark chocolate mousse:
8oz dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp granulated sugar
a pinch of salt
8oz cream cheese
2 tbsp cocoa powder

In a pot, melt down the chocolate, cream, butter, sugar, and salt. In another bowl, cream together the cream cheese with cocoa powder. Stir the two mixtures together until combined.

For initial assembly:
Line a 6-inch ring mold with acetate. Then start by placing down your cake scrap layer first. Then pour on 1/3 of the soak. Add on 1/3 of the dark chocolate mousse, and 1/3 of the peanut butter ganache, spreading them on as evenly as possible. Repeat with the next round of cake and fillings. For the top layer of the cake, start with the cake round and soak. Swirl the ganache and mousse together on top of that layer. Freeze the cake for at least 2 hours before attempting to unmold.

For the cake truffles:
2-3oz cake crumbs/scraps
2oz peanut butter
2 tbsp confectioner’s sugar
a pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips

In a bowl, mix together the cake, peanut butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla to form your truffle base. Divide into 6 even balls and place in the freezer. Over a double boiler, melt down the dark chocolate until half-melted. Take the chocolate off heat and stir until fully melted. Skewer and dip your truffle balls into the chocolate, tapping the truffles to remove any excess – ideally you only want to cover the truffles about 1/2 to 3/4 the way up, leaving a clean circle of the peanut butter truffle filling exposed. Place the truffles, dipped side down, on either parchment or acetate, removing whatever skewer you used to dip them with, and place back in the freezer for at least another hour. Garnish the top of your buckeye cake with these truffles to finish.

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